Random thoughts on the budget wars
Some random thoughts on the ongoing state budget festivities presented in no particular order.
Raid on the Permanent Fund
I am on the record many times accusing the governor and his backers of orchestrating a raid on the Permanent Fund. Perhaps this is not the best way to describe what they are trying to do.
I believe we are in pretty deep water vis a vis state spending and that the political left is doing everything in their power to orchestrate a solution to fund the current size of state government and state spending from the corpus of the Permanent Fund. This is why they never discuss budget cuts, even to entitlements that are eating our budgetary lunch. This is why they never discuss any efforts to create new high paying jobs for Alaskans. We are a resource rich state. Time to log, fish, drill and mine those resources. And yes, this is the path to prosperity.
What are these entitlements? Education spending for one. It consumes some $1.6 billion yearly. The governor has proposed an increase in the foundation formula. This is simply unsustainable when private schools and home schooling parents are doing the job better with far fewer dollars per student spent. Perhaps it is time to voucher education spending directly to parents so the money follows the student. This would work nicely with a 50% cut in education spending.
Another entitlement is state union contracts, over 80% of which will be up for renewal this year. A freeze on COLAs and a 5% across the board cut in state employee compensation would retain the jobs and save nearly half a billion dollars in the first year alone. This would even get bipartisan support as Rep. Matt Claman did this to Anchorage municipal employees while he was mayor in 2008. Claman did his budget cutting via unpaid, involuntary furlough, essentially the same thing as a straight pay cut.
While I strongly oppose taxes, caps on the PFD and a raid on the Permanent Fund, I am not in opposition of converting the Permanent Fund into an endowment. Lesil McGuire’s proposed legislation is the most recent version of the decades old Cremo Plan and should get serious consideration.
What I do not want is Governor Walker converting the Permanent Fund into a sovereign wealth fund and then used as collateral for a loan to build the ultimate Alaskan White Elephant – the natural gas pipeline – a pipeline to nowhere with no market for what it is supposed to carry.
Interestingly, Alice Rogoff’s newly featured infrastructure –bashing reporter, (Don’t Call Me) Charlie Wolforth has been silent about that megaproject as it has not shown up on the list of projects he has recently bashed. Perhaps he knows investors or possible investors of the new project. If so, this wouldn’t be the first time.
Received an extended telephonic push poll a few hours before the Super Bowl game began. The questions were mostly designed to elicit a reaction to bash the producers, legislative majority, pick up the flag and follow the governor to his promised nirvana. I wonder if Art Hackney, recently connected to the governor as a consultant is drafting poll questions for the governor. Better yet, what do they plan to do with the polling results when they are compiled?
A Feb. 1 story in Alice Rogoff’s fish wrapper had consultant Art Hackney in undisclosed meeting(s) with Governor Walker, his Chief of Staff, Jim Whittaker. Walker consultant and dirty tricks maven Ashely Reed knew about the meeting(s). She met with Hackney some 15 additional times. Dermot Cole, another recently featured pro-walker hitman in Alice’s fish wrapper admits he is connected to the festivities as his daughter Aileen Cole is Walker’s Deputy Press Secretary. Hackney met with ADN publisher Alice Rogoff, as he did with Jack Ferguson a DC-based lobbyist who Walker hired to work on the fiscal plan.
All this comes about the same time as Vince Beltrami and GCI CEO Ron Duncan choose up sides to pressure the legislative majority to adopt Walker’s ridiculous fiscal plan. The ADN story on the group has a photo of Tony Knowles sitting in front of the room, which is never a good sign for our pocketbooks.
With all these unsavory characters floating in and around the newly formed alliances with Walker, I have a couple questions:
- Who else was in those meetings? I doubt that Walker, Crawford and Hackney were the only ones present.
- Why are they burning Hackney now? Outlived his usefulness or is something else going on?
Finally, I want to point out the full participation of the ADN in these festivities, as both Dermot Cole and Alice Rogoff have either directly participated in or have family participating the festivities. The media is no longer interested in reporting the news. Rather under Alice it is bound and determined to drive us toward a goal and a solution that she and those she supports has already determined. Doesn’t sound a lot like a free, open press to me.
Looks a lot more like a self-selected propaganda arm of the Walker administration and the people who put it into office. Of course, should the Carlyle Group end up managing the Permanent Fund, Alice stands to make lots and lots of money. Interesting, that.
These folks have their best interests in mind, which are not necessarily the best interests of the rest of Alaska or our pocketbooks or our economic future.